Bay Area Rapid Transit workers are one step closer to striking after the agency’s largest union overwhelmingly rejected the latest contract offer from executives Thursday.
Members of the SEIU 1021 rejected the offer with 98.5% of voters saying "no" to the terms just two days after the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 voted unanimously also to reject the offer, in effect authorizing a strike. The SEIU represents over 1,400 mechanics, custodians, safety inspectors and clerical employees. Only 16 members voted to accept the deal, which would save $100 million over four years.
“It was a bad offer,” said Lisa Isler with the SEIU, which has instead proposed a counter offer that would save the agency $760 million.
“Our counter proposal is a sensible solution," Isler said, "which calls on both BART workers and BART executives to sacrifice for the long-term sustainability of the system."
Union leaders are proposing an extension of the time period necessary to make employees eligible for retirement health benefits. They calculate that would save $700 million over the next 25 years and another $60 million over the next two years. BART Spokesman Linton Johnson says the plan does not address the agency’s immediate deficit, which is expected to be $310 million over the next four years.
The unions were seeking a 60-day cooling off period from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has said he won't let that happen. BART board members sent a letter to the Schwarzenegger last month, asking him to decline any such request.
Negotiators are expected to go back to the bargaining table Monday afternoon. BART says for now there is no immediate threat of a strike, but that unions are no longer required to give 72-hours' notice as they are currently working without a contract.